DENVER — It's silly to think that a pair of Longmont city schools had to travel down to south Denver on Saturday to get their first taste of a rivalry that has been played out in virtually every other sport except volleyball.
Sure enough, Longmont and Mead got that chance as part of the Class 4A Region 9 tournament held at Thomas Jefferson High School. Both schools were looking for more given the situation, and though they played a scratch-and-claw five-setter in the middle of the three matches of round robin play against each other, neither could block the path to the state tournament for the host Spartans as TJHS went 2-0 to advance.
Mead got the better of the Trojans by winning the fourth and fifth sets after LHS took a 2-1 lead, but a rested Thomas Jefferson kept Mead from a third straight trip to the Denver Coliseum with a 3-0 sweep.
"I'm super proud of how we played today, especially because I feel like we just had a hard time meshing these past couple of weeks overall," said Mead's Nicole Hamann, one of six seniors who worked under three different head coaches during their run. "We came together and played as one. We did the best we could."
"There's a reason why they were hosting, because they're a top-12 team for sure," said Mead coach Michael Dumler, whose team finished 15-10 in his second season. "We played well today, but came up short. That part of it, you just have to move on from. You just have to credit a good team like TJ for playing tough."
The Mavericks, as has been their modus operandi all season, played great defense behind their block in both matches with Macy Bourn, Jaycee Docheff and Sydney Blackburn patrolling the back row.
While they managed to hit .243 against Longmont, the Mavericks struggled a bit more to get in system and put down attempts against the Spartans. In their 25-13, 25-22, 25-15 loss to TJ, they hit just .105. Hamann, a setter and hitter in the 6-2, led the team in the deciding match with seven kills along with sophomore middle Abbey Glynn.
To Thomas Jefferson's credit, outside hitters Jaden Sandoval and Siale Sandoval were on their game. Jaden, a senior, is 6-foot-6 and athletic — a scary combination for any opponent.
"Every adjustment we made, they had an answer for," Dumler said of Thomas Jefferson.
"They had some big outsides and big blocks, and we had a hard time getting around that I think," Hamann said. "We had to play smart and look for the holes, but in the end their blocks got us."
Longmont had many of the same problems against TJ but rallied to play Mead extremely tough. The Trojans had four seniors to start the year, but Jensen Walker was the only one available by the time Saturday came — and she brought her leadership to the court against the Mavericks.
Against Mead, Walker had 17 kills and 27 digs — this after she started the year as a libero. Rachel Kusbel also had a solid day, accumulating 12 blocks and 22 kills in the two matches.
The Trojans finished the season 13-12.
"We had to re-invent ourselves through the season because of injury, and that really just continued all the way until today," coach Holli Stetson said. "We've had kids step up tremendously in roles they never expected.
"It's tough to get to regionals and not advance. The players that are left on our team, they came out to play their very best."
Thomas Jefferson 3, Longmont 0
At Thomas Jefferson HSLongmont 26 19 14
Kills — Longmont: Jensen Walker 5, Rachel Kusbel 5.
Blocks — Longmont: Kusbel 5, Annika Wetterstrom 3, Caroline Demothesnes 3, Kaitlyn Bridge 3.
Assists — Longmont: Annika Wetterstrom 15.
Aces — Longmont: Tanna Carson 2, Walker 1, Wetterstrom 1.
Digs — Longmont: Walker 10, Carson 7, Wetterstrom 7 .
Mead 3, Longmont 2
At Thomas Jefferson HSLongmont 26 19 25 18 12
Kills — Longmont: Walker 17, Kusbel 17; Mead: Macy Bourn 13, Abbey Glynn 13, Sydney Blackburn 12.
Blocks — Longmont: Kusbel 7, Bridge 2; Mead: .
Assists — Longmont: Wetterstrom 40; Mead: Delaney Overlin 27, Nicole Hamann 23.
Aces — Longmont: Makayla Snyder 4, Kusbel 2; Mead: Overlin 6, Blackburn 2, Jaycee Docheff 2.
Digs — Longmont: Walker 27, Wetterstrom 19; Mead: Blackburn 30, Bourn 27, Docheff 17.
Thomas Jefferson 3, Mead 0
At Thomas Jefferson HSMead 13 22 15
Kills — Mead: Hamann 7, Glynn 7, Bourn 5, Blackburn 5.
Blocks — Mead: Glynn 1, Blackburn 1, Hamann 1, Bailee Irwin 1.
Assists — Mead: Overlin 15, Hamann 14.
Aces — Mead: Bourn 3, Blackburn 2.
Digs — Mead: Docheff 15, Blackburn 13, Bourn 8.